Water is the Heart of Grassy Narrows

My name is Nora Sneaky. I’m 15 years old and I’m from Grassy Narrows. Grassy is the only home I’ve ever known, and it’s a home I love. Grassy teaches me so much: it teaches me about the land, animals, and our Anishinaabe culture. But being from Grassy Narrows has also taught me that life can be unfair at times.

From 1962 until 1970, a pulp mill dumped 10 tonnes of mercury into the Wabigoon-English river upstream from my community. That mercury still sits in the river to this day and it has come with many health effects like numbness, difficulties breathing and standing, inability to feel in areas in the body, muscle weakness. The list goes on and on. Most often it affects people physically, but it also affects people emotionally and mentally. I myself suffer from migraines, depression, anxiety, and other things that come with the effects of the poisoning.

Because of mercury, I grew up with a lot of fear in my life, and this fear only grew as I got older and learned more about the impacts of mercury.

One of my biggest fears is about having children. The generations to come still have a high risk of being affected by mercury. They could still be taken from us by mercury. Mercury causes many complications for children. They can be born without something needed to live. They can be born weaker than normal, or born with disorders from birth. All of these are still very real risks for us.

I’ve seen a cousin pass away from the impacts of mercury, I’ve seen the hurt it caused and the pain that was felt by the community. It’s a pain I never want to feel, but it’s still a risk for those who, like me, want to have a family in the future.

I am working hard to overcome this fear like many people in my community, which is why I want to be a journalist and a midwife. It all ties back to my home.

Being a journalist to me is a dream. I’ve seen many journalists come and go in Grassy, and I’ve told the story of Grassy plenty of times to others. I’ve seen how journalists can help bring problems to light. I want to be able to help bring my community’s story to light and be the one to share it directly. It’s something I want to do for as long as I live, because I know what it feels like to be from a small place and how it feels like to have a problem that seems like it’s never going to be fixed.  I know what it’s like to feel that darkness.

Midwifery is something I knew I wanted to do since I was small, because of my fear but also just because I love children. Since I don’t think I’ll ever have children, I would want to work with them. Pregnancy seems like a beautiful thing and it sucks that I most likely won’t experience it because the fear really does take over your mind.

Grassy having its rivers and fish poisoned was a life changer. Telling us not to drink the water, to not eat the fish, to not be out on the land because of our contaminated rivers is like telling a person not to talk, not to walk, not to dream. Our life was taken from us, and it all happened so fast. We still need to figure out living in some ways, but my home is also home to many strong people, so we’ll manage. Water is the heartbeat of Grassy and it always will be forever.